Collaboration or Competition. Is it all or nothing for you, or is there something in it for everyone? Does it have to be “I win – you lose”?
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I was recently coaching a client into a new role in a different company, in which time it was suddenly acquired. Naturally, that somewhat raised the “angst” about LIFO (“last in, first out”). And so we explored what attitude options might work best in that scenario around the following:
I have learned that we can’t change our circumstances. We can only manage our response to them. Famous Aussie cricketer Glen McGrath refers to that as “controlling the controllables”, which I subscribe to wholeheartedly. I have found there are a few very common themes that prevail:
- our attitude,
- our personal confidence
- and our self awareness.
Collaboration or Competition. The Right Attitude
To me this is largely a question of philosophy. Do you think Abundance or Scarcity?
As I wrote in Attitude determines Altitude, this is about the size of the pie.
Is your position one that the pie is finite and that if I get more, someone else has to get less? That’s scarcity or classic competition thinking.
Or is your view that the pie is expandable, so there can be more for everybody, including you?
My view is that if we embrace abundance thinking, we open our minds to exploring options that create growth and expansion. Rather than worrying about whether there is enough. And this is where I believe collaboration thinking works so much better than competition thinking.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m a strong believer in competition, because that keeps us all on our toes. It removes the risk of Complacency and keeps us in the realm of Urgency. I also sometimes subscribe to “I win – you lose” as a tactic when things are tough and certain outcomes become a necessity. But that would be tactical and not strategic in my book. I will always try and look for expansion possibilities, including “win – win” strategies. And I have learned that collaboration is a fine tool to stretch our thinking into the right growth philosphy.
My belief is that in collaboration thinking, 1 + 1 is often greater than 2. Conversely, I see competition thinking often resulting in 1 + 1 being 1.8 or less, as the competing parties erode overall value for each in trying to win.
Is your attitude one of “knowledge is power”, as in holding knowledge close to your chest so it can be used only when it gives you a personal advantage? Or one of “knowledge empowers”, as in if we all have this knowledge, we can so much better make our case to win this customer?
Collaboration or Competition. Personal Confidence
Of course our attitude is influenced by our belief in ourselves, our confidence, our ability to deliver and vice versa. It makes it hard to bring positive, expansionist thinking to the table with enthusiasm when you don’t believe in yourself. Or when you lack confidence in a situation. I write more about that in Confidence, Certainty and Doubt.
Interestingly, exploring more constructive growth options, can fuel our enthusiasm. And hence our confidence as we see the possibilities expansionist thinking can generate. Unquestionably more than constraint thinking will.
Also, the rigour of doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) or using the Cartesian Questions will also build confidence. As we explore the potential risks and issues, we often realize that we will actually be able to deal with them, rather than be overwhelmed by them.
Collaboration or Competition. Self Awareness
And so going back to my client’s situation, and coupled with the above, we discussed a number of personal strategies he could embrace.
We found that self awareness opens one up to picking up the vibes in each situation. That’s quite different to being self conscious, where it is more prevalent when we lack confidence in ourselves in that moment.
We aslo found that in the midst of any personal competitive juggling for position, one winning attitude will always prevail: “what’s best for the customer?”. I find this an almost “all empowering” approach.
This is one reason why I am such a passionate member of The Network of Consulting Professionals. Why? Because we all take the position that together we can create a superior customer experience for our individual clients. If I can’t do something for my client as well as my associate can, then why wouldn’t I leverage his strengths as a subcontractor into delighting my client? That way everyone wins, and our motto “we take your success personally” isn’t just a smart marketing slogan – we really believe that. This network is an extension of my value proposition to my clients. A truly collaborative example of expanded success.
Particularly in such volatile merger and acquisition situations, Self awareness is also critical in terms of being able to identify the right allies and foes in terms of who to back and who to be more wary of. This is about choosing the right stakeholders that you can influence and also that can influence your success.
Collaboration or Competition. So What?
So, whether your personal preference is an attitude of competion or collaboration, I hope this article gives some broader insights into appreciating that an attitude of collaboration can help “grow the pie”?
What if, before launching straight into your personal stereotype of behaviours, you stepped back? And wondered how a different approach might get you vastly different, hopefully improved or vastly more successful outcomes?
What if you tried to no longer see everyone as a competitor that can “take something away from you”?
What if you were able to explore each situation and find examples of where you might be able to find others that have strengths you don’t? And then work together with them?
What if you were able to develop significantly more successful outcomes for you (and for them) through collaborating with their strengths in conjunction with yours?
What if you could?